A hypothesis on the deficit of lipreading during linguistic perception in subjects with autism: observations from robotic interactions

  • Paola Pennisi
Keywords: language, lipreading, autism, interoceptive inference


For many years various computational studies have attempted to bring deficits into inferential deficits in integrating top-down inputs. However, in this study we aim to show via the concept of interoceptive inference that in individuals with ASD a malfunction in the processes of synchronization with others may also explain part of their language deficits. To do that, we have shown that there is an inverse correlation between the amount of time spent by children with ASD observing the interlocutor’s mouth and their social skills. This data, combined with the observation (now widely accepted by scientific literature) that individuals with ASD usually do not integrate information from lipreading with the linguistic message, has led us to hypothesize that an inability to interpret as biological motion the complex articulatory movements necessary for speech production, caused by a deficit in interoceptive inferential processes, could be the effect of a dispersion of attention that impedes perceiving the audio-visual synchrony during verbal perception.


BARA, Bruno G. (1999), Pragmatica cognitiva: I processi mentali della comunicazione, Bollati Boringhieri, Torino.

BEBKO, James M., WEISS, Jonathan A., DEMARK, Jenny L., GOMEZ, Pamela (2006), «Discrimination of temporal synchrony in intermodal events by children with autism and children with developmental disabilities without autism» in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 47(1), pp. 88-98.

BRASS, Marcel, SCHMITT, Ruth M., SPENGLER, Stephanie e GERGELY, György (2007), «Investigating action understanding: inferential processes versus action simulation» in Current Biology, 17(24), pp. 2117-2121.

CARROZZA, Cristina, FAMÀ, Francesca I., LEONARDI, Elisa, PENNISI, Paola, SPADARO, Letteria (2016), «Autismo e pragmatica clinica: attenzione e percezione nella prospettiva della social motivation» (in press).

CHEVALLIER, Coralie, KOHLS, Gregor, TROIANI, Vanessa, BRODKIN, Edward S. e SCHULTZ, Robert T. (2012), «The social motivation theory of autism» in Trends in cognitive sciences, 16(4), pp. 231-239.

CHIEN, Miaoen E., JHENG, Cyun M., LIN, Nimiao M., TANG, Hsienhui, TAELE, Paul, TSENG, Wensheng S., CHEN, Mike Y. (2015), «iCAN: A tablet-based pedagogical system for improving communication skills of children with autism» in International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 73, pp. 79-90.

CLARK, A. (2013), «Whatever next? Predictive brains, situated agents, and the future of cognitive science», in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 36(03), 181-204.

DALTON, Kim M., NACEWICZ, Brendon M., JOHNSTONE, Tom, SCHAEFER, Hillary S., GERNSBACHER, Morton A., GOLDSMITH, Hill H., ALEXANDER, Andrew L., DAVIDSON, Richard J (2005), «Gaze fixation and the neural circuitry of face processing in autism» in Nature neuroscience, 8(4), pp. 519-526.

DE GELDER, Beatrice D., VROOMEN, Jean, VAN DER HEIDE, Lucienne (1991), «Face recognition and lip-reading in autism», in European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 3(1), pp. 69-86.

DE WIT, Tessa C., FALCK-YTTER, Terje, VON HOFSTEN, Claes (2008), «Young children with autism spectrum disorder look differently at positive versus negative emotional faces» in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 2(4), pp. 651-659.

DUNN, Lloyd (1997), The British Picture Vocabulary Scale (2nd ed.), NFER-Nelson, Windsor Berks.

ELSABBAGH, Mayada, BEDFORD, Rachael, SENJU, Atsushi, CHARMAN, Tony, PICKLES, Andrew, JOHNSON, Mark H. BARON-COHEN, Simon, BOLTON, Patrick, CHANDLER, Susie, FERNANDES, Janice, GARWOOD, Holly, GLIGA, Teodora, HURDY, Kristelle, PASCO, Greg, TUCKER, Leslie e VOLEIN Ágnes (2014), «What you see is what you get: contextual modulation of face scanning in typical and atypical development», in Social cognitive and affective neuroscience, 9(4), pp. 538-543.

FALCK-YTTER, Terje, FERNELL, Elisabeth, GILLBERG, Christopher L., VON HOFSTEN, Claes (2010), «Face scanning distinguishes social from communication impairments in autism» in Developmental science, 13(6), pp. 864-875.

GRANDIN, Temple, JOHNSON, Catherine (2005), Animals in translation: Using the mysteries of autism to decode animal behavior, Scribner, New York.

GROSSMAN, R. B., SCHNEPS, M. H., & TAGER-FLUSBERG, H. (2009), «Slipped lips: onset asynchrony detection of auditory‐visual language in autism», in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 50(4), pp. 491-497.

HAITH, Marshall M., BERGMAN, Terry, MOORE, Michael J. (1977), «Eye contact and face scanning in early infancy» in Science, 198(4319), pp. 853-855.

HAPPÉ, Francesca, RONALD, Angelica, PLOMIN, Robert (2006), «Time to give up on a single explanation for autism» in Nature neuroscience, 9(10), pp. 1218-1220.

HERRINGTON, John, NYMBERG, Charlotte, FAJA, Susan, PRICE, Elinora, SCHULTZ, Robert (2012), «The responsiveness of biological motion processing areas to selective attention towards goals» in Neuroimage, 63(1), pp. 581-590.

HOHWY, Jacob (2013), The predictive mind, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

HUNNIUS, Sabine, GEUZE, Reint H. (2004), «Developmental changes in visual scanning of dynamic faces and abstract stimuli in infants: A longitudinal study» in Infancy, 6(2), pp. 231-255.

IAROCCI, Grace, ROMBOUGH, Adrienne, YAGER, Jodi A., WEEKS, Daniel J., CHUA, Romeo (2010), «Visual influences on speech perception in children with autism», in Autism, 14(4), pp. 305-320.

KILNER, James M, FRITH, Chris D (2008), «Action observation: inferring intentions without mirror neurons», in Current Biology, 18(1), pp. R32-R33.

KLIN, Ami, JONES, Warren, H., SCHULTZ, Robert, VOLKMAR, Fred R., COHEN, Donald (2002), «Visual fixation patterns during viewing of naturalistic social situations as predictors of social competence in individuals with autism» in Archives of general psychiatry, 59(9), pp. 809-816.

KNILL, D. C., & POUGET, A. (2004), «The Bayesian brain: the role of uncertainty in neural coding and computation», in TRENDS in Neurosciences, 27(12), pp. 712-719.

KOSTER-HALE, Jorie, SAXE, Rebecca (2013), «Theory of mind: a neural prediction problem», in Neuron, 79(5), pp. 836-848.

LEWKOWICZ, David J., HANSEN-TIFT, Amy M. (2012), «Infants deploy selective attention to the mouth of a talking face when learning speech», in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(5), pp. 1431-1436.

LORD, Catherine, RUTTER, Michael L., LE COUTEUR, Ann (1994), «Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised: a revised version of a diagnostic interview for caregivers of individuals with possible pervasive developmental disorders», in Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 24(5), pp. 659-685.

MAURER, Daphne, SALAPATEK, Philip (1976), «Developmental changes in the scanning of faces by young infants», in Child development, pp. 523-527.

MAGNÉE, M. J., DE GELDER, B., VAN ENGELAND, H., & KEMNER, C. (2011), «Multisensory integration and attention in autism spectrum disorder: Evidence from event-related potentials», in PLoS One, 6(8), e24196.

MCGURK, Harry, MACDONALD, John (1976), «Hearing lips and seeing voices» in Nature, 264, pp. 746-748.

MEGNIN, Odette, FLITTON, Atlanta, RG JONES, Catherine, DE HAAN, Michelle, BALDEWEG, Torsten, CHARMAN, Tony (2012), «Audiovisual speech integration in autism spectrum disorders: ERP evidence for atypicalities in lexical semantic processing» in Autism Research, 5(1), pp. 39-48.

ONDOBAKA, Sasha, KILNER, James, FRISTON, Karl (2015), «The role of interoceptive inference in theory of mind» in Brain and cognition (in press).

PELPHREY, Kevin A., SASSON, Noah J., REZNICK, James S., PAUL, Gregory, GOLDMAN, Barbara D., PIVEN, Joseph (2002), «Visual scanning of faces in autism», in Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 32(4), pp. 249-261.

PENNISI, Paola (2016), Il linguaggio dell’autismo. Studi sulla comunicazione silenziosa e la pragmatica delle parole, Il Mulino, Bologna, (in press).

PENNISI, Paola (2014), La percezione visiva nei soggetti con autismo: osservare i volti umani attraverso un diaframma chiuso, in FALZONE, A., NUCERA, S., PARISI, F., (a cura di), Le ragioni della natura, Corisco Edizioni, 2014, ISBN: 978-88-98138-11-1, pp. 337-352.

PENNISI, Paola, TONACCI, Alessandro, TARTARISCO, Gennaro, BILLECI, Lucia, RUTA, Liliana, GANGEMI, Sebastiano, PIOGGIA, Giovanni (2015), «Autism and Social Robotics: a systematic review» in Autism Research (in press).

PUTNAM, Cynthia, CHONG, Lorna (2008, October), «Software and technologies designed for people with autism: what do users want?», in Proceedings of the 10th international ACM SIGACCESS conference on Computers and accessibility, pp. 3-10.

RONALD, Angelica, HAPPÉ, Francesca, PLOMIN, Robert J. (2005), «The genetic relationship between individual differences in social and nonsocial behaviors characteristic of autism», in Developmental science, 8(5), pp. 444-458.

RONALD, Angelica, HAPPÉ, Francesca, PRICE, Thomas S., BARON-COHEN, Simon, PLOMIN, Robert (2006), «Phenotypic and genetic overlap between autistic traits at the extremes of the general population», in Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 45(10), pp. 1206-1214.

SMITH, Elizabeth G., BENNETTO, Loisa (2007), «Audiovisual speech integration and lipreading in autism», in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 48(8), pp. 813-821.

STEKELENBURG, Jeroen J., VROOMEN, Jean (2007), «Neural correlates of multisensory integration of ecologically valid audiovisual events», in Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 19(12), pp. 1964-1973.

TOMASELLO, Michael (2009), Le origini della comunicazione umana, Cortina, Milano.

UDDIN, Lucina Q. (2015), «Salience processing and insular cortical function and dysfunction», in Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 16(1), pp. 55-61.

UDDIN, Lucina Q., MENON, Vinod (2009), «The anterior insula in autism: under-connected and under-examined», in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 33(8), pp. 1198-1203.

UDDIN, Lucina Q., SUPERKAR, Kaustubh, LYNCH, Charles J., KHOUZAM, Amirah, PHILLIPS, Jennifer, FEINSTEIN, Carl, RYALI, Srikanth, MENON, Vinod (2013), «Salience network–based classification and prediction of symptom severity in children with autism», in JAMA psychiatry, 70(8), pp. 869-879.

VAN DER GEEST, Jos Nicolaas, KEMNER, Chantal, VERBATEN, Marinus N., VAN ENGELAND, Herman (2002), «Gaze behavior of children with pervasive developmental disorder toward human faces: a fixation time study», in Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 43(5), pp. 669-678.

VAN WASSENHOVE, Virginie, GRANT, Ken W., POEPPEL, David (2005), «Visual speech speeds up the neural processing of auditory speech», in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(4), pp. 1181-1186.

VLAMINGS, Petra H., STAUDER, Johannes E., VAN SON, I. AM, MOTTRON, Laurent (2005), «Atypical visual orienting to gaze-and arrow-cues in adults with high functioning autism», in Journal of autism and developmental disorders, 35(3), pp. 267-277.

WILLIAMS, Justin H., MASSARO, Dominic W., PEEL, Natalie J., BOSSELER, Alexis, SUDDENDORF, Thomas (2004), «Visual–auditory integration during speech imitation in autism», in Research in developmental disabilities, 25(6), pp. 559-575.

YARBUS, Alfred L. (1967), Eye movements and vision, Plenum Press, New York.

YOUNG, Gregory S., MERIN, Noah, ROGERS, Sally J., OZONOFF, Sally (2009), «Gaze behavior and affect at 6 months: predicting clinical outcomes and language development in typically developing infants and infants at risk for autism», in Developmental science, 12(5), pp. 798-814.

How to Cite
Pennisi, P. (2016) “A hypothesis on the deficit of lipreading during linguistic perception in subjects with autism: observations from robotic interactions”, Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio, 00. Available at: http://www.rifl.unical.it/index.php/rifl/article/view/359 (Accessed: 24January2021).